VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The Virginia Wesleyan University women's soccer team returns to the Division III NCAA Championship this fall after receiving an at-large bid from the NCAA Selection Committee. The team opens up the tournament with a contest against New York University at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. Both the first and second rounds will be played at Swarthmore University in Swarthmore, Pa.
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HOW WE GOT HERE: The Marlins turned in another impressive season, boasting a record of 11-4-4. Navigating one of the most difficult schedules in all of Division III, The team had wins against a pair of regionally-ranked and its only losses of the season were recorded against nationally-ranked foes. The squad went undefeated in conference action (6-0-4) and made it all the way to the Conference Championship Finals before falling to Lynchburg.
HISTORY OF A MARLIN: Virginia Wesleyan is no stranger to the NCAA Championship as this will be its 12th appearance in program history and its third in as many years. Last year, the squad defeated Tufts University in the opening round thanks to a game-winning goal by Kennedy Skala before eventually bowing out to eventual-Final Four member TCNJ. The farthest the Marlins have ever gotten in the tournament was in 2006 when the team made it to the FInal Four.
DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS: The backbone of the Marlin squad this year has been a well-disciplined back line. Senior Ann Marie Moffett and Emily Taylor have both been stout defenders for Coach Bowers squad, starting in all 19 of the team's games so far. Keeper Tristen Roberts has played the majority of the minutes between the pipes, helping the team notch a sub-1.00 goals-against average (0.96).
SPREAD OFFENSE: When it came to scoring this season, the Marlins spread the wealth. A total of 16 different players scored at least one goal this season and, of those, 10 scored multiple. Leading the pack was Alex Davidson who came away with seven despite missing five games due to injury.
FEAR THE FRESHMAN: A well seasoned squad, the Marlins have had plenty of help from their newcomers this year. Camryn Terry and Carleigh Van Reenen have bolstered an already strong attack, combining for eight goals on the season. Texas native Kennedi Anders has also pitched in becoming one of the Marlin mainstays on set piece opportunities.
SCOUTING NYU: Members of the United Athletic Association (UAA), the Violets will be the Marlins' opening round opponent. Much like VWU, NYU also received an at-large bid after posting a record of 10-5-3. This will be the first time they have been back on the national stage since 2014 and will be the first time these two programs have ever squared off. The Violets are trending upward though, winning 10 of their last 11, with their only loss coming against the nation's top team, Washington University.
SCOUTING SWARTHMORE: Hosting the pod will be the Garnet, receiving an automatic bid after winning the Centennial Conference Championship. Swarthmore posted a record of 15-2-2, suffering it's only two losses in the middle of the season. The squad has been ranked in every United Soccer Coaches (USC) national poll this year, with the most recent one sitting them at No. 12 in Division III. The Garnet pride themselves on a tough defense, holding the 35th best goals-against average in the nation (0.55).
SCOUTING ST. JOSEPH'S (ME): Joining Swarthmore on the other side of the bracket is St. Joseph's College, making its first ever appearance in the NCAA Championship. The squad churned out a record of 16-3-0 on the year, earning an automatic qualifier after upsetting top-seed Lasell in the Great Northern Athletic Conference (GNAC) Championship final. The Monks are headed by two-time Conference Player of the Year, Haley DaGraca, who ranks 21st in the country for goals-per-game (1.00).